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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Jun 3;105(22):7762-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0802406105. Epub 2008 May 27.

Promoter elements associated with RNA Pol II stalling in the Drosophila embryo.

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  • 1Department Molecular and Cell Biology, Division of Genetics, Genomics, and Development, Center for Integrative Genomics, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.


RNA Polymerase II (Pol II) is bound to the promoter regions of many or most developmental control genes before their activation during Drosophila embryogenesis. It has been suggested that Pol II stalling is used to produce dynamic and rapid responses of developmental patterning genes to transient cues such as extracellular signaling molecules. Here, we present a combined computational and experimental analysis of stalled promoters to determine how they come to bind Pol II in the early Drosophila embryo. At least one-fourth of the stalled promoters contain a shared sequence motif, the "pause button" (PB): KCGRWCG. The PB motif is sometimes located in the position of the DPE, and over one-fifth of the stalled promoters contain the following arrangement of core elements: GAGA, Inr, PB, and/or DPE. This arrangement was used to identify additional stalled promoters in the Drosophila genome, and permanganate footprint assays were used to confirm that the segmentation gene engrailed contains paused Pol II as seen for heat-shock genes. We discuss different models for Pol II binding and gene activation in the early embryo.

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